Drowning State: Public outrage over bad governance in South Sudan
BY: Mayak Deng Aruei, USA, AUG/29/2014, SSN;
It took South Sudanese more than half a century to attain their independence from the SUDAN. At the course of fighting successive Khartoum based governments, more than 2.5 million lives have been sacrificed, and the State was born (July 9, 2011) with an abundance of untapped natural resources (Oil being the leading commodity).
Although the host State (Sudan) handed down the newly independent nation as a Federal State, that system of government only existed on paper. There have been many attempts to craft a meaningful system of government in the REPUBLIC of SOUTH SUDAN, and through adoption of the South Sudan Transitional Constitution.
But the political atmosphere has been so rough to the point that no possible presidential aspirant could challenge the incumbent President given overarching powers granted by the Transitional Constitution.
And there is one group to be blamed, and that is the South Sudan Legislative Assembly, for MPs have surrendered/traded away their constitutional duties for special favors from the Executive Branch, particularly the President of the Republic.
First and foremost, South Sudanese must place their Nation above all, and care-less about personal gains and tribal affiliations.
The utterances about federalism seen across various social media and news outlets cannot be a solution to the ailing State, and without getting real with the political plague that caused the blowback.
When the Region (Southern Sudan) was granted self-governing for the second time in history, warlords took everything in their own hands, narrowed the political space and annihilated the civil population.
Instead of looking for new federalism (ethnic federalism), it would be of a great importance to South Sudanese, and for them to fix the Federal system that they have in place (devolve powers to states and empower local governments).
It is undeniable that South Sudan is a federal State, 10 states plus Abyei are federally structured. The loopholes found in the Transitional Constitution were added intentionally, and to make the president more powerful than he should be in a State where citizens fought for democratic ideals and to have a nation where people decide their own destiny.
As a concerned citizen, it is about the right time to advise the populace to stay within the yolk (governing Document).
Even with that precaution, influential members of various ethnic groups in South Sudan, and who have taken strange decisions regarding the bad governance, would not be willing to accept anything less of the reform.
When the war erupted in Juba (Dec. 15, 2013), some high ranking members of the Parliament deserted their posts and joined the armed rebellion. However, instead of mobilizing youth to change the Government militarily, those lawmakers should have voiced their concerns and push hard for reforms from within.
Where in the world can lawmakers take-ups arms against democratically elected regime, and to reinvent something that they would have done without having to pull a trigger at some knuckleheads in the Legislative Assembly?
Because nobody wanted to take blame for having not acted on his/her supposed obligations, some are battling the regime militarily. This new twist is nothing but an opportunity for others to punish their colleagues in the Government.
Despite those noises and fierce fights, South Sudanese are anti-system, ant-rules, and only very few would follow on what they say. And by the way, why do people become too loud when they have been sacked from their positions?
There is no doubt, South Sudan needs a new direction, and all the concerned parties (members of the Civil Societies, Lawmakers, Churches and Elders) in the Republic of South Sudan should come out of their hiding shells and help the Nation rewire itself.
The reforms that people are talking about require full commitment and selflessness to get the State moving again. And this would involve rebooting the stalled mechanisms (independent of the Judiciary, Legislature becoming real and noninterference by the Executive), and not through adoption of anything new.
As per the ongoing Peace Accord, IGAD has proposed the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGONU), and it appeared to be the only opportunity for concerned parties to have their voices heard. But Rebel’s Chief (Dr. Riek Machar) is running around and declining to sign the Document.
For a very simple reason, South Sudan descended into crisis because there has never been a political will from the ruling Elites (Kiir and Riek plus their cronies), and their failures to follow on their own political designs and procedures have added even more fuels on the raging fire/turmoil.
Back to the governed, the general public has been led to believe that South Sudan was never a Federal State, and finding a new federal system would heal the wounds of bad governance seen since the year 2006.
That is not true for a national structures existed in principles: states have their own constitutions, there are Counties’ governments, Payams’ governments as well as Bomas’ administrations, and that tells the world within our reach that South Sudan is not missing anything in terms of the system of government.
In regard to diversity, nationalities have been legally recognized through non-interference, and all have their unique customary laws in place.
That brings us to the question: can more polarization of the State help in solving national political discourses? Well, one has to look at other nations that have distanced themselves from a system that would jeopardize national unity.
And all citizens should thank the Drafters of the Transitional Constitution because they have been attentive to a number of issues with the exception of too much powers vested in presidency.
Again, how possible is it that states can be created based on ethnic lines, and people still expect law enforcement officers to be neutral/impartial in their duties?
Although ethnic federalism seems to be working really good in Ethiopia, people must know that Ethiopia is very different from South Sudan.
Secondly, South Sudan is a very diverse State with 64 tribes, and thinking about how best to make it peaceful and prosperous ought to be everyone concern. Because all tribes are culturally unique and politically volatile, we risk making it worse if tribal states are created.
The fact that warlords who just got out of bush-life like did little to harmonize the State does not warrant going for designs that are likely to create difficult problems.
For those who have been following political developments in South Sudan, the underground networks, all of which are based on tribal affiliations are not good for coexistence.
It is worth noting that any form of government without a political will cannot function accordingly, and embarking on untested form of federalism (Ethnic Federal system) is never a viable choice. There has to be a conducive political environment for that kind of federal system to work effectively.
The fact that South Sudan is a very complex State with too many complex problems, it would be good for South Sudanese to maintain what they have since it has the potential to keep South Sudan united if implemented fully.
On different fronts, people (elders and political commentators) have already taken sides, and seemed to prefer tribal-based states administrations, but they are not talking about why federal system based on 10 states failed?
Without answering questions about the past, there is no way that citizens can guarantee to have a better system than what they have had for the last nine years or so.
What is being debated is more of a new call for further secession/more division of the current Republic of South Sudan!
For those who may disagree with that suspicion, how possible is it that people wanted to live in united South Sudan, and those same people prefer being affiliated within their own tribes?
In the last couple of months, South Sudanese have been jamming internet with their opinions about a new federalism, and opposition to ethnic federalism is now synonymous with DINKA.
It is true that majority of people who are opposed to new federalism are Dinkas, but that does not means they are doing it because of the sitting president, a national figure who happened to be a Dinka by tribe.
Moving forward, what energizes most people to put out their positions on the issue at hand is the fact that polarizing South Sudan along tribal lines can complicate things.
It is also very true that some tribes are too dissatisfied with Dinka’s led Government, and that does not warrant politicizing national issues to the point where tribes consider themselves more than enemies.
Whenever there is a problem along the tribal lines, the kind of archaic/barbaric killings that takes place is beyond anyone’s imagination, and having ethnic federalism would create even more hatreds.
The fact that dominant tribes take things in their hands does not justify people to call for further fragmentation of the State. Even if ethnic federal was to be given a chance, South Sudan national government would still be dominated by the largest tribes. And there would be no way for smallest tribes to escape fierce political encounters with the populous tribes.
Anything more than the existing federal structures is likely to tear the nation apart, and anything impractical of the existing federal system is also likely to propagate more hatreds against largest tribes (Dinka & Nuer).
Thirdly, South Sudan as a State must first extinguish the burning fire before embarking on structuring the Nation. Rushing changes because of the crisis would create new problems.
As of now, there is a big confusion as to what would happen should citizens decide to follow loud voices (Equatorians, Dinka elders & Rebels’) call for revitalization and upgrading of former British-designed districts into states.
People must know one thing, the biggest threats to unity of South Sudan are not the tribes, but politicians who resort to using their tribes whenever they fallout with their colleagues in the Government. What if those politicians come from ethnic based states?
At the present time, oppositions to the ruling Party (SPLM-in-Government) have exploited the unfortunate event of December 15, 2013, and are out pushing citizens too hard to follow their paths.
With all of that, unplanned/unstudied shifts toward new political direction is not the best strategy for political problems to be resolved once and for all.
There is reason to believe that lack of accountability throughout the State has made people (politicians) to care-less about their own responsibilities as public figures, and that is why they keeps deceiving their subjects (citizens) day in and day out.
As a matter of fact, we can all agree on one thing: interference by the president of the Republic in states’ affairs has also contributed to weakening of the Federal System that was inherited from the Sudan.
He (president Salva Kiir) relieved/sacked three Governors (Lakes, Jonglei & Unity states) without the consent of citizens who put/voted them into their offices.
In his most recent presidential decree, president Salva Kiir finalized a controversial Peace Accord with notorious Rebel leader, David Yau Yau & created Greater Pibor Area Administration (GPAA) without consent of the neighboring Counties (Akoba, Bor, Duk, Nyirol, Twic East & Uror counties) or the state of Jonglei.
It has to be recalled that his Excellency, the President of the Republic has been overreaching for years, and some of his decrees have had negative impacts on civil populations (Lakes state).
Furthermore, we must tighten our belts really good because South Sudan is not going anywhere, and finding lasting solutions to governing issues would be the only way for us to have a stable nation.
We all know/should know that the ongoing war in the country has lots to do with bad governance (politicians wasted time and did nothing), and people who have been serving in the GOSS dating back to its inception in 2005 are equally responsible for the mess.
When Equatorians voiced their concerns, Rebel leader, Dr. Riek Machar came out with his own proposal that created 21 states based on former British districts in the then Southern Sudan, all of which were ethnic quotas.
In response to that wobbling, another group that called itself Dinka elders proposed 23 states. By the way, who are those elders? What do they represent? And who is behind them? Why now?
Along the same line, Dr. Lam Akol of the SPLM-DC mobilized other political parties, secured his place in the IGAD led peace negotiation and proposed a post of prime minister to be created as a way for resolving the conflict, and then left the Government’s negotiating team.
Because South Sudan’s warring parties share the same political fear when it comes to Dr. Lam Akol, his proposal was rejected altogether and the Government disowned him thereafter.
While addressing all the problems in a combo is not going to be a possibility when the State is at war, citizens must pay close attention to all the missed opportunities.
As a matter of fact, no schooled person would expect South Sudan to be like Australia, Canada or the United States of America in just nine years! But, can we really rewind back and expect to see South Sudan in the image of Australia between 1908 and 1914?
Come on, my people (South Sudanese), the world is now more intertwined than ever before. Even in our most remote areas (Panyagoor and Turalei), people are surfing online, and that tells us that we cannot go behind the line and begin where other nations were some 100 years ago.
That means, aiming high and resolving outstanding issues within a reasonable time would save the State from disintegrating into worthless pieces. If we can all settle on this: no more firing/sacking of states’ Governors by the president, and without consent by voters who voted them in.
And across the Nation, all public offices must be filled through elections, and that should include: Governors, members of South Sudan Legislative Assembly, states Legislative Assemblies, Counties Commissioners, Counties’ Administrators, Town Mayors, Paramount Chiefs, Chiefs and sub-chiefs.
If South Sudan had been doing that from day one, there would have been less mistrust between the governed and their leaders because free and fair elections are the best tools by which citizens can lockout people who’re politically unattractive.
In summary, demanding the same system after it has failed cannot be the solution to future problems. Let’s get it very clear that there has been a Federal System in the Republic of South Sudan before it gained independence from rests of the Sudan. What had been lacking was a political will to follow on what appeared to be a destiny to having a stable State.
Instead of mobilizing tribes to force the Government to adopt ethnic federalism, South Sudanese ought to give themselves time, try to fix all that they had done wrong during the Interim period.
In recap, the jury is out trying to reconnect the dots, but patience would be the best medicine in getting through the aftermath of December 15, 2013. All must know that maintaining a peaceful nation requires more than just hanging out with famous and wealthy people in the Country.
The Author here is Mayak Deng Aruei, a South Sudanese living in the United States of America. He holds Associate degree in Legal Assistant (San Diego Miramar College), BA in Sociology & Philosophy(University of San Diego), completed one year of Juris Doctorate studies at Trinity Law School(Trinity International University), holds MA in Legal Studies(American Public University), pursuing two degrees at the moment: Bachelor’s of Laws(LLB) at the University of London and Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership: Organizational Development at Grand Canyon University. He can be reached at Kongor.email@example.com